Cut Out the "CARBAGE"
As discussed in my last blog, food plays a critical role in establishing a good foundation of health. While food IS and SHOULD BE enjoyable, we must also remember to think of eating as something we do to sustain life. Just as you would not give a diesel engine regular gasoline, something that it does not recognize, why would you give your body processed foods it doesn’t recognize? And if you’re thinking your body isn’t having that same response that diesel engine would have with regular gasoline, think again. Think of the epidemic we are seeing in this country of diabetes, hypertension, obesity, cancer… and I could go on and on, but I won’t.
As a dentist I see how poor fueling choices (specifically with processed and refined carbohydrates and sugars) wreaks havoc on the mouth. But we must realize that this is just the beginning. If it could rot our teeth before even being swallowed what must it be doing to our insides??
In today’s society we have gotten so far away from “REAL” food it is just scary. Even worse, is most people don’t even realize the crap they are ingesting. We assume that because the food on our supermarket shelves has been approved by the FDA that it must be okay for us, but I think nothing could be further from the truth.
In a society where being overweight and obese has become epidemic, we spend more time reading nutrition fact labels than we do just reading the actual ingredients in our food. It’s time for us to get back to eating the food that was put on this Earth to be eaten. Forget about counting calories. Forget about counting grams of fat. I promise you, if you get all of the garbage out of your diet things will work themselves out. There will no longer be a need to count calories. You will start to gain back that intuition you should naturally have about food. Those natural feelings of hunger and feelings of satiation will come back. That’s when you know you have or have not eaten enough; not by counting the calories you’ve ingested. You will also start to think about how food makes you feel. If the food you eat gives you awful bloating, gas or even skin rashes do you think you should continue eating it? The answer to that question should be “NO”, but for many of us, including my former self, it isn’t. We continue to ingest things that make us ill because it has become the norm and all that we know.
What shocks me is that this country has managed to demonize fat, even when that fat comes from a natural source, but has managed to make a very large place for processed “healthy grains and carbohydrates” in our diets, which in most cases are everything BUT natural and healthy. American diets have been sabotaged by the low-fat, high-carbohydrate craze. And what has been the result of that?? Insulin resistance, Type II diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome, which is usually accompanied by a host of other illnesses to include obesity, heart disease and risk of stroke or heart attack.
These are things that I myself as an athlete thought I must be immune to. While I fortunately never let things get too far and I was not overweight, I did in fact have a high A1c (a test used to measure your average blood glucose levels over the past 3 months and to test for diabetes). As an endurance athlete I was led to believe that I needed a diet full of carbohydrates and many simple sugars during training. But even when training upwards of 20-25+ hours a week swimming, biking, running and strength training, I too was susceptible to such illnesses. You canNOT out-exercise a bad diet. I’m sure many of you have heard this before or have figured this one out yourself. You can exercise and exercise all you want, but if you continue to fuel yourself with garbage you will get just that in return… A body that is not fit, healthy or nourished.
For those of you who do not have a science background, let me try to explain a little more about the physiology of how carbohydrates are working in your body. Every time you ingest carbohydrates, your body must release insulin (a hormone) to store that carbohydrate in the form of glycogen in your liver or muscle. Yet, there is only so much storage in the muscle and liver for glycogen. Once those stores are capped, guess what happens to that extra carbohydrate? Yep, you guessed it. It gets converted to and stored as fat. And as we constantly consume carbohydrates and store this extra carbohydrate as fat on our bodies, we are also shutting off our body’s ability to burn fat. WHY? Because if there is always carbohydrate in excess we will burn that as energy, NOT our stored body fat. In addition to this, we eventually become insulin resistant and then diabetic (Type II) as our bodies will stop responding to the constant insulin spikes since it is ALWAYS being secreted to deal with that excess carbohydrate. Think about it... If our bodies were meant to constantly be dealing with an influx of carbohydrate this would not happen. Insulin resistance and diabetes are a way for our bodies to tell us to STOP feeding it so much carbohydrate. It simply cannot handle this constant influx.
What we need to do is get back to a place where our bodies are burning fat not carbohydrate. Now I know what many of you are thinking… “But don’t we need carbohydrates for energy and more specifically as an endurance athlete”? The answer to that question is a complicated one and one which I will try to discuss in future blogs. For now, I will say that past research has shown that for high-intensity training our bodies do use mostly carbohydrate for energy. However, these studies are usually done on athletes who are sugar-burners. In other words, they are athletes who usually consume a moderate- to high-carbohydrate diet. But what if we were to turn on our body’s ability to burn fat as our primary fuel source by decreasing that carbohydrate intake??? Could we become fat-adapted (getting our bodies to burn fat for fuel) and get our bodies back to their natural states by changing our diets to a high-fat, low-carbohydrate one? There has been some research on this by Dr’s Jeff Volek and Stephen Phinney and again I will get into this in future blogs.
For now, understand that for aerobic training or your everyday sit-in-a-chair slump, your body can and should be burning fat. And this is the exact reason your body stores fat. It does this so that in those times of famine it has a place to reach to for energy. It was meant to be a survival mechanism. But since we no longer live in a society where we spend hours everyday hunting, gathering and roaming for our next meal and instead are constantly reaching for a snack, we have turned into large bodies of stored fat. What if I told you, you could reverse this? By cutting your daily intake of carbohydrates and increasing your healthy fat intake you will find that you CAN go hours without eating and in these times of fasting your body will start to tap into those fat stores again for energy. By changing our daily habits, sitting less, moving more, and getting our diets back to the place where nature intended them to be we can fix this problem and along with that comes the resolution of SO many other issues.
Now I am not saying to not eat ANY carbohydrates. Foods are comprised of three different macronutrients (Fats, Proteins and Carbohydrates) for a reason. Each plays a very important role in the body and thus there is a place for ALL three in our diets. The problem has come with the fact that carbohydrates have taken over American’s plates and most are in the form of refined garbage. We need to cut the “CARBAGE”. Get rid of the processed, refined crap that is so far from anything natural. Eat food in its natural form as it was meant to be ingested. As I said in my last blog, if it comes from a healthy animal, the ground or a tree, then it is probably good for you.
I have noticed for myself that by cutting all forms of processed and refined foods and increasing my fat intake that I have had drastic improvements in things that I had no idea were related to my food. Things like eczema (skin rashes), acne, acid reflux, constant nasal drip (allergies), aphthous ulcers (canker sores), constant and often emergent trips to the bathroom (I’ll spare you the details of that :) ) have all been resolved. I do not count calories or grams of any macronutrients (although I do limit my carbohydrate intake outside of healthy vegetables and some fruits). I also allow myself PLENTY of room for natural fat in my diet. By doing so, I have found I no longer have cravings because I am not sending myself on the crazy hormonal roller coaster ride of insulin spikes and insulin lows. I can go for hours without even thinking of food as I am so satiated by my meals. Again, this is getting our bodies back to working how they were meant to work. And I know many of you also might be wondering if a higher fat diet caused me to put on weight. The answer is NO and actually quite the opposite. I not only lost a few lbs, but I also for the first time in my life have a normal menstrual cycle meaning my body (which is largely working through those chemical messengers, or hormones), is also starting to find its natural state or a state of homeostasis. I was taught to believe by many physicians I could not have a period as an endurance athlete with low body fat. I have proven for myself that this is not true.
For you endurance athletes out there I know this can be a confusing topic because we are taught to believe that we must have a high-carbohydrate diet. I believed it myself for years. I am now working on becoming a fat-adapted athlete and I will talk more about that in future blogs.
For now, take a little more time reading those labels. Soon, you will find you rarely need to read labels because most of your food is not wrapped or packaged. I will go into further detail in a future blog (Kick the Chemicals) about many of the chemicals that have snuck their way into our everyday diets.
To end, remember that food should be and can be enjoyable. But DON'T stress about it! I do my best, but that doesn't mean that I don't succumb to temptation every once in a while. The goal isn't to be perfect, it is to be healthier and happier. So go and enjoy your New Year's festivities and start working on doing one thing at a time. I will do my best to scatter recipe ideas throughout my blog to help get you on the right path. Let’s work on making this New Year a healthy, happy and stress-free year!
"You are what you eat... So don't be Fast, Cheap, Easy, Or Fake!"
Thanks for reading,